Number of Asylum Applicants Reached New High in 2014, U.N. Official Announces
May 6, 2015
Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) May 6, 2015 – Conflicts, especially war in Syria, contributed to swelling total of immigrants seeking safe haven.
For several years, widespread anecdotal reports have suggested that the number of asylum-seekers worldwide has substantially increased. Many of these reports pointed to a growing rash of conflicts around the globe as reasoning. On March 26, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees confirmed those suggestions, stated that the number of asylum-seekers peaked last year, reaching a 20-year high.
High Commissioner Antonio Guterres officially announced that 866,000 people from less-developed nations sought asylum in industrialized countries in 2014. The total number of asylum-seeking immigrants to the developed world last year represented a 45 percent increase from the figure set in 2013. The previous high-water mark for asylum-seekers was set in 1992 during the peak of the war in the Balkans.
Europe was the primary destination for most of 2014’s asylum-seekers. Many attempted to enter the continent by paying smugglers who ferried them across the Mediterranean, according to the U.N. agency. That seaborne route, however, has been a perilous one, with one immigrant dying at sea for every 20 who safely made the passage, by the agency’s statistics.
“The definition of an asylum-seeker as a person claiming to flee persecution in their home country does not capture the full extent of the travails that many asylum-seekers face,” said Annie Banerjee, a prominent Houston attorney who specializes in immigration law. “They are preyed upon by unscrupulous smugglers who charge them significant sums, put many on treacherous journeys, or abandon them to harsh elements at sea or on land.”
The Syrian war — a conflict, now in its fifth year, that has claimed more than 200,000 lives — has been a key impetus behind the recent surge in the number of asylum-seekers to other nations. Additionally, the war has created a flood of millions of refugees to neighboring Middle Eastern countries.
The largest group of asylum-seeking Syrians (173,000) applied to enter Germany, with Sweden and Italy following. While the number of Syrian asylum-seekers who came to the United States remained small last year (at no more than 1,600) that figure still represents an increase from barely three dozen applicants from Syria a decade ago. And overall, the United States accounted for the second-largest group of all asylum-seekers in the world in 2014.
“So much violence, conflict and upheaval in peoples’ lives is a particularly tragic yet compelling reason for the many immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria to seek asylum elsewhere,” Banerjee said. “Fortunately, the United States and other nations have opened their doors so some of these unfortunate people can seek a safe haven and start new lives.”
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